The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took one large step to integrating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the national airspace last week by granting regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies and considering the application of a seventh. This announcement marks the first time that commercial UAVs in any industry have been authorized by the FAA to fly in the continental United States.
The video production companies petitioned the FAA in May for an exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows the Secretary of Transportation to grant exemptions for certain UAV systems if he determines that they can operate safely within the national airspace. Due to the remote nature of the typical film set, Hollywood is an ideal test case for the FAA to begin integration.
The FAA did impose restrictions on the production companies. All UAV operators must hold private pilot certificates, keep the UAV within the line of sight at all times during flight and flights must be restricted to a “sterile area” on the set. Additionally, all UAVs must be inspected before every flight and they are not allowed to fly at night.
“These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance,” said Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary. The UAV market is set to explode now that the FAA has stopped outright refusing to allow commercial drone use in the U.S. The FAA is currently considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities.